TORONTO >> For Paul George, watching the Indiana Pacers miss the playoffs while sidelined by injury last season was a painful experience.
Now healthy, he couldn’t be happier about being back in the postseason.
George scored 33 points, Monta Ellis had 15 and the Pacers beat the Toronto Raptors 100-90 in Game 1 of their first round playoff series Saturday.
George missed all but six games last season after breaking his right leg while playing in a scrimmage with Team USA before the 2014 World Cup. Without their star for much of the season, Indiana slumped to a 38-44 finish and missed the playoffs for the first time in five years.
“That hurt more than the actual break, not getting this team to the playoffs last year,” George said. “This means a lot, it means a lot to be back here, it means a lot to be on this stage again.”
After shooting 2 for 9 in the first half Saturday, George shot 10 for 13 in the second, a performance Pacers coach Frank Vogel called “awesome.”
“The biggest reason we won,” Vogel said. “Paul’s shot-making late in the game was spectacular.”
Jonas Valanciunas fouled out after scoring 12 points and setting a Raptors’ playoff record with 19 rebounds.
All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan both struggled for the second-seeded Raptors. Lowry made 3 of 13 field-goal attempts while DeRozan made 5 of 19. The pair went 1 for 10 from 3-point range and 8 for 15 at the free-throw line.
“I don’t think they’re going to shoot like that again,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Toronto shot 38 percent and made 20 turnovers, leading to 25 Indiana points.
“As a team, I thought we were tight offensively and that frustration carried over to the defensive end,” Casey said. “It wasn’t us. I hadn’t seen us play that tentative on the offensive end all year. That’ll change.”
DeRozan finished with 14 points and Lowry had 11. Corey Joseph scored 18.
“We’re not panicking,” DeRozan said. “We understand we just played bad.”
Toronto dropped to 0-8 in the first game of an opening-round playoff series. This was the seventh straight playoff defeat for the Raprtors, who were swept out of the first round last year after losing the final two games of a seven-game loss to Brooklyn the year before.
“This is not last year,” Lowry said. “We’re very positive, we’re very confident.”
Solomon Hill scored 13 points while George Hill and Evan Turner each had 10 for the Pacers.
A pair of free throws by Bismack Biyombo tied it at 76-all with 6:46 left in the fourth quarter but Rodney Stuckey answered with a 3 for Indiana.
Toronto trailed 84-81 after Lowry made 1 of 2 at the line with 4:02 to go, but the Pacers scored 11 of the next 12 points to lead 95-82 after a 3 by Ellis with 1:49 left.
Toronto, first-round losers in each of the past two seasons, has never won a seven-game playoff series. Its only postseason triumph was a five-game series over the Knicks in 2001.
Valanciunas had eight points and nine rebounds in the first and the Raptors made 7 of 10 free-throw attempts to lead 24-19 after one quarter.
A 3 by Patterson put Toronto up 36-28 with 5:44 left in the second, but C.J. Miles scored five points and a 3 by Ellis tied it at 41 with 1:19 remaining. Joseph had eight points in the quarter and the Raptors led 45-43 at halftime.
George scored 17 points in the third by connecting on 6 of 7 field-goal attempts, including three 3-pointers and a fast-break dunk, as the Pacers took a 70-67 lead into the fourth.
Pacers: Indiana snapped a five-game losing streak at Air Canada Centre. The Pacers had not won in Toronto since March 1, 2013. … Solomon Hill finished 10 for 10 at the free-throw line.
Raptors: Valanciunas set a franchise record with 15 first-half rebounds. … The Raptors out rebounded the Pacers 52-38, and had 20 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s nine. … Toronto had not led at halftime in the first game of a playoff series since Game 1 of their conference semifinal series at Philadelphia on May 6, 2001.
Game 2 is Monday night at 7 p.m. in Toronto.